Almost after a decade, the sprawling old bungalow near Vadamalaiyan hospital in Madurai is again buzzing with visitors. Trees stand tall and the chirping of the birds adds vigour to the slothful atmosphere.
Standing in small groups, at least two dozen men are seen talking to each other with their hands folded at the back. The group moves and makes way as a fair, short and stout young man, with a tilak on his forehead, comes out with folded hands, greeting the visitors saying: “vanakkam”.
He asks the men about the next campaign spot. “Ask the ward secretary the location of the exact area. Let there not be any confusion,” he tells them in Tamil peppered with English words in American accent.
P.T.R.P. Thiagarajan, a former Lehman banker, is a new face in the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), but not a political novice. Unlike many first-time contestants in the fray for Tamil Nadu assembly seat this time, Thiagarajan is familiar with electoral politics and it comes easy for him.
Son of P.T.R. Palanivelrajan, a towering leader in the DMK, Thiagarajan says he is a straight-forward politician. Contesting from Madurai central constituency, just a few kilometers from the Thirumangalam constituency, which is notorious for the cash-for-votes formula, he has vowed he would not bribe the voters.
“I will not give you money. If you feel I can serve you best as your elected representative, vote for me,” he tells the voters.
As an investment banker, who had been shuttling between USA, Singapore and India for over 20 years, Thiagarajan knows the art of handling people. Combined with his father’s illustrious leadership qualities and his qualities PTRP, as he is popularly known, has set his foot this election with much confidence.
An engineering graduate from the National Institute of Technology in Tiruchi, Thiagarajan pursued his post-graduate degree and research in the New York State University.
After working in USA for several years, he was part of the Standard Chartered Bank as its managing director responsible for global capital markets and then went on to serve as the senior managing director looking after the global foreign exchange and money markets for the SCB, Singapore.
As an academic, his research work has found place in various journals and books. His presentations at scientific conferences in the US, Europe and Asian countries have made him stand high above every contestant this elections in the state.
But ask him how these qualifications and experience would help his victory, he has an immediate answer: “I am not here to promise, win and get away. My father was a legendary figure and he had contributed in a big way to building Madurai’s infrastructure.
Today, 10 years after my father's rule, I can witness how the city is lacking basic amenities. My promise is to build the city’s infrastructure and solve its water woos.”
Again, Thiagrajan is not the typical politician who wants to be in power because he was hails from a family with rich history and steadfast association with the Dravidian movement. His father Palanivelrajan had served as a minister and also as speaker of the state assembly with 40 years of public service.
His grandfather Ponnambalam Thiagarajan, popularly known as P.T. Rajan served as the chief minister of Madras Presidency in 1936. But then, Thiagarajan doesn’t like talking about dynasty politics.
“Just because my father and grandfather were successful in their public lives doesn’t mean I have come in (to politics),” he said.
Thiagarajan’s elevation to being the DMK candidate did not come easy. In 2006 when his father passed away, DMK leader M. Karunanidhi offered the ticket to Thiagarjan asking him to contest the by-elections. But he refused because of his job abroad
Again in 2011, when he was offered the ticket, Thiagarajan could not leave his American wife who was with her family waiting for their second son. And then things did not favour him, as Madurai came under the control of the then DMK strongman M.K. Alagiri.
Now the well-qualified Thiagarajan is M.K. Stalin’s man, who has ensured Alagiri’s exit from the party. But ask him about Alagiri and his style of controlling things, he dismisses it with a shrug.
“I don’t want to comment on this. I am new to the party and this movement. On a personal level, I maintain a cordial relationship,” he says.
Ask him about dynasty politics, he has a long note written with the help of one of his doctor cousins in Boston as the reply: “All the four generations of Thiagarajan’s family, the individuals of this family first established themselves in other professions, and gained wide experience in the solution of societal problems.
“Both Thamizhavel P. T. Rajan, and P.T.R. Palanivel Rajan were eminent barristers who understood law-making, jurisprudence, and the challenges to social justice/equity. They freed Hindu religious practices from exclusionary forces and caste prejudices, legislated for the uplift of women and backward sections of society, and made lasting strides in building the infrastructure of the Presidency, the State, and Madurai City.
“The present candidate Dr. P. Thiagarajan has wide experience of macro-financial and micro-financial principles, and the principles of management of large corporations, and can bring unique perspectives to effective governance, and the abundant economic growth of the state and Madurai City.”